Tuesday, October 2, 2007

"The time of illicit acquisitions is long gone"

I take encouragement from Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway's helpful review article of the new Metropolitan Museum of Art catalogue, Art of the Classical World in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Greece, Cyprus, Etruria, Rome (2007).

She makes her views crystal clear:
"the very Trustees of the museum number among them some notable, and notorious, collectors of illegally excavated antiquities, whose generous financial support, on the other hand, has significantly contributed to the renovation of the galleries."
Her criticism heads right to the top of the curatorial department:
"This difficult situation has not been improved by some careless comments by the very author of this grand classical installation. Dr. Picón, in an interview granted to Rebecca Mead and published in The New Yorker of April 9, 2007, appears to have poked fun at archaeologists who are less skilled than tombaroli in finding valuable objects, and to have minimized the importance of the findspot in favor of the aesthetic value of the works of art."
As Ridgway has observed, the catalogue presents some interesting donors and some unanswered questions (see also "Counting Gigantes in New York").

The apparent disregard for and mocking of archaeological ethics by senior curatorial staff at the MMA brings these wise words from Ridgway:
"this very storm over Dr. Picón's comments may have served to stress to the Metropolitan Trustees, its director, and all its curators, that the time of illicit acquisitions (whether by gift, loan, or purchase) is long gone."
Time will tell.

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